When adults visit a preK classroom, they see all of the wonderful learning opportunities for the children: the reading nook in the far back corner, the rug for meeting and circle time near the display board, the shelves full of toys and manipulatives, and the tables and chairs that greet the children as they enter the room. The students see the chair and table legs, possibly their cubby, and not much else. According to early childhood expert Dr. Sandra Duncan, when creating an inviting classroom environment for young children, educators need to look at it from the kids’ perspective. In her edWebinar “Through a Child’s Eyes: How Classroom Design Inspires Children’s Learning and Wonder,” Dr. Duncan explained how designing the space with a young child’s physical and emotional viewpoint in mind can ease anxiety about and create excitement for learning.
In addition to their limited height, Dr. Duncan explained why young children have a unique point of view. First, they are egocentric; they are worried about their own needs. So, when they enter the classroom, they want to immediately see the toy, tool, etc., that is meaningful to them. Second, they can’t extrapolate meaning and have limited capacity to make logical leaps. For example, they won’t necessarily associate the fall leaves hanging from the ceiling with the fall season. Finally, young children have myopic vision. They see only what’s right in front of them or at their feet.
When designing rooms for young children, Dr. Duncan advised attendees to think of three key moments during the school day.
1. A moment of invitation: Think of the view from the doorway. Do kids just see their cubbies and chairs, or do they see materials that will get them excited about being in school that day? For example, Dr. Duncan suggests having a curiosity table near the door that will inspire children to explore.